We are all responsible for numerous roles throughout our lives. Caring for a senior family member or friend is one of the most important—and demanding—roles we may experience.
Whether this role happens gradually as the result of aging or it occurs more suddenly as the product of an accident or unexpected illness we, as caregivers, may suddenly find ourselves responsible for anything from picking up groceries to making major financial decisions. For some of us, this new role may not affect our schedules much but, for many of us, it means rearranging existing priorities like work and family.
Whether you are currently taking care of an elderly loved one or just beginning to anticipate an upcoming need it is important to consider how this new role will affect your lifestyle and take the proper steps to avoid weariness. We wrote this article to serve as a practical resource to help you, the caregiver, take care of... you.
Read the flight safety manual of any airline and under the directions, for the oxygen mask you will see something to the effect of: "put on your mask first before assisting others with theirs". The reason for this is simple: If you don't help yourself first, you may not be physically able to help others.
Granted, that is a dramatic example, but its application in caregiving remains true. One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is to take time to care for yourself as well. While caregiving is a labor of love, this labor can quickly test your enthusiasm and patience if you are not looking after yourself.
In fact, in the 2011 National Study of Caregiving, it was found that caregivers who provide substantial (assisting with both care coordination and medication management) help are at a much greater personal risk for physical, emotional, and financial difficulty.
Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising and relaxing are going to be of greater importance during this season of life. Although you may not feel the effects of physical exhaustion, worry and anxiety are certain to take their toll and making time for yourself can dramatically affect your attitude through this demanding time.
Make yourself a priority, it may affect your ability to help when needed.
Sometimes we may feel like we are the only person going through a particular experience or we feel guilt for feeling a certain way and are reticent to ask for help. In these cases, we have a tendency to focus these thoughts inward where they fester instead of turning them outward and getting the assistance we need.
If the role of caregiver is wearing on you, please don't hesitate to ask for help. You are not in this alone. Family members, support groups, and professional agencies can all offer much-needed assistance when the going gets tough.
Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. Assess what you can do and how much. Seek help for the rest.
Sharing responsibilities is important for your well being. Is it possible that local friends can help prepare meals? Perhaps it's easier for another family member to pick up medication. Maybe an in-home care agency can provide assistance while you are at work. With the right orchestration, the load can easily be shared and stress reduced.
At Home by Choice, we view our role as one of support. Our agency's philosophy has always been to "approach the health, happiness, and care of our clients as if they are our own family members".
Our goal is to come alongside you, the caregiver, and provide assistance where needed. Our home health-care agency offers personal care, sitter and companion services, respite care, short-term care, and post-surgical care. So, whether you need help with medication reminders or someone to provide round the clock care while your loved one recovers from a hospital stay, we are here for you.
Contact us today, we'd love to discuss how we can help.